Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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RuPaul’s Battle of the Seasons tour may be wrapped up, but we’re still hungry for some more Drag Race excitement. While we wait for the next batch of queens to grace our screens with more eleganza extravaganzas, let’s take a walk down memory lane and take a look at some of the show's best lip syncs that left audiences gagging for more.
Latrice Royale & Kenya Michaels: “Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin) Latrice Royale is one of the most loved and most memorable queens on the show, and her Aretha Franklin lip sync against Little Kenya Michaels was absolutely chilling. While Kenya bounced around the stage like a bunny in heat, Latrice barely moved from her place, letting her face do all the talking. At that moment, Latrice was Aretha.
Raja & Carmen Carrera: “Straight Up” (Paula Abdul) The awesome Alexis Mateo flat out referred to Raja and Carmen Carrera’s lip sync as soft porn, so that should tell you enough. The 2 “Heathers” were gutted to have to go up against each other, but ended up turning out one of the most memorable performances in RuPaul’s lip sync history. From Carmen stripping down to virtually nothing and Raja leaving her lipstick mark Carmen’s shoulder, this lip synch was straight up hot.
Raven & Jujubee: “Dancing On My Own” (Robyn) In the All Stars season, squirrelfriends Raven and Jujubee were forced to lip sync against each other to Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” The lip sync was extremely emotional, with Jujubee and Raven barely even having any oomph in them left to compete against each other. The performance was so moving that RuPaul uttered the magic words to both queens: “Chante, you both stay.”
Alyssa Edwards & Coco Montrese: “Cold Hearted” (Paula Abdul) This was it, guys!! One of the most anticipated sync-offs in Drag Race history. Alyssa Edwards and Coco Montrese made no secret of their history-laden, drama-filled beef with each other that seemed to transcend countries, eons, and wars. Although both queens had their ups and downs, they had somehow managed to avoid being pitted against each other in the be-all end-all lip sync… until now. Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” was ridiculously apt for the 2 stars and though Coco got to stay, Alyssa left us with some of the best moments from the show (see: “… Back rolls?”)
Roxxxy Andrews & Alyssa Edwards: “Whip My Hair” (Willow Smith)The only time we actually wanted to listen to “Whip My Hair” was during Roxxxy and Alyssa’s crazy lip sync to it. The performance was full of helicopter hair-flinging and sharp dance moves, but when Roxxxy took off her wig only to reveal another wig underneath (!!!!), even RuPaul’s jaw dropped to the floor. Roxxxy may have been petty at times, but she could bring it like no other. The legendary lip sync marked the first time that RuPaul let both contestants stay, because even she knew that all that hair-flipping was no joke.
Manila Luzon & Delta Work: “MacArthur Park” (Donna Summers) What the hell was Manila on during this lip sync? No one will ever know, but we do know that whatever it was, it helped her churn out one of the weirdest yet fiercest performances ever. Looking smoking hot in her yellow Big Bird dress, Manila turned it up all the way – we’re talking eyes popping out, mouth wide open, arms to the sky, crazy queen realness. Her performance was so good that she ended up sending fellow “Heather,” Delta Work, home.
Jinkx Monsoon & Detox: “Malambo No. 1” (Yma Sumac) Hands down one of the greatest lip syncs of all time – the lovable Jinkx Monsoon and the incomparable Detox. The showdown was bound to be intense, since both queens were extremely talented in completely different ways. As fiercely as Detox was bringing it, though, Jinkx stole the show without question. “Malambo No. 1” was made for Jinkx – her over-the-top character and goofy personality complemented her crazy awesome dance moves, and even the always-perfect Detox couldn’t even come close.
Dida Ritz & The Princess: “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” (Natalie Cole) It’s nerve-wracking enough to have to perform in front of Her Royal Majesty RuPaul, but having to perform a song by the original performer of that song makes it even more high pressure. In Dida Ritz’s best performance, she forced The Princess to sashay right the f**k away with her high energy, carefree lip sync to Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be,” done in front of Ms. Cole herself. The performance was so awesome that Dida got handkerchief waves from all the judges.
Jujubee & Sahara Davenport: “Black Velvet” (Alannah Myles) While Raja vs. Carmen was seductive in a porno kind of way, Jujubee’s lip sync of “Black Velvet” was seductive in a classy kind of way. Performing against the lovely Sahara Davenport, Jujubee killed it with her rock chick style and emotional syncing. You really believed that Jujubee was singing the song herself, and her flawless performance sent Sahara packing.
Nina Flowers & BeBe Zahara Benet: “Cover Girl” (RuPaul) One of the best lip syncs for the titles was performed in the very first season of Drag Race – the showdown between Camerooooooooooon (aka BeBe Zahara Benet) and one of the best drag queens in the world, punk rock majesty Nina Flowers. The queens had literally polar opposite styles and their fight for the very first Drag Superstar title was as fierce as expected. Performing to RuPaul’s classic “Covergirl,” the queens battled it out and left audiences everywhere begging for more.
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